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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Canoe Paddle Maintenance Tips - Oil or Varnish

Every day brings us closer to snow and frozen waterways which also brings our paddling season to an official close. Although there is still open water at the moment, the days have become too cold, for most of us, to get out on the water. Putting our gear away for the season and our end-of-season equipment maintenance is usually done around this time of year for all, except the hard-core paddler. So when packing away your tents and canoes for the season - don’t overlook your paddles! Keeping that in mind, we are offering the following End-of-season and other Badger Canoe Paddle Care Tips for our customers.

Care of your Badger Canoe Paddle(s)

Hand-Rubbed Oiled Paddles**
The amount of maintenance that an oiled paddle needs depends on the amount of use it gets in a season. For instance, a paddle that is to be used daily or up to 4 days/week, we recommend oiling your paddle every few weeks or as needed. For paddles used only on the weekends or less, Badger Paddles recommends you re-oil your paddle every one to 2 months or as needed. Even if your oiled paddle is only used once in a year, we recommend you oil your paddle at the begining and end of every season at minimum, or as needed. You may use a fine marine tung oil product like Behr or boiled linseed oil. For more tips on oiling your Badger Paddle, please visit our maintenance page.

Hand-Rubbed Varnished Blades & Varnished Blades**
To truly keep your paddle in it’s best condition, a varnished paddle should be checked for any “scars” from use at the end of every season. “Scars” include nicks or heavy scratches or other abrasions in the varnish finish. “Scars” can be caused by coming into contact with rocks or other hard surfaces while in use or at play. These “scars” should be sanded out first (if possible) and the entire varnished surface be given a light sanding with a fine sand paper. This helps the new coat of marine-grade varnish that now must be applied to have better surface adhesion.

You may only want to "feather-out" the scar by sanding lightly.  Not only will this be easier but it will allow a natural patina to acquire on your paddle.  These scars may even hold memories for you.  In the case of really deep scars, you may need to fill with a coloured wood filler, sanding level before finishing with a good quality marine grade varnish.  
Before varnishing, wipe clean with a soft cloth or a tack rag to remove any surface dust. If you are only varnishing the blade of your paddle - use painters tape to give a clean edge-line to your finish. Using a brush made of natural fibre or sponge, brush on the varnish according to the manufacturers directions. Hang to dry in a dust free environment.

For a full look at varnishing a paddle, watch our video "How To Varnish A Wood Canoe Paddle (At Home)".

Please note all our varnished blades come with an oiled shaft and grip, except for WaterColours. We do offer a fully varnished paddle as a special order. For tips on how to maintain your oiled shafts and grip, please refer to the Oiled Paddles section above.

Storage of your Badger Paddle(s)
Because Badger Paddles are solid wood canoe paddles, it is best to hang them from their grip(s) or lay them down. This is especially true for long term storage, for if a solid wood paddle is left leaning for too long a period - it may warp.

Don’t want to do the maintenance? We can do it for you as we also offer paddle refinishing. Contact us at for more details.

**Caution: Always work in a well ventilated area when using any of the products needed to maintain your Badger Paddles. Also note the products used to maintain your paddles are flammable and subject to spontaneous combustion. All rags, especially those used to oil paddles, must be spread out to dry completely before disposing of for safety purposes.


  1. Sports equipment of any type must always be maintained. Water equipment is no exception, but rather they need more care. Learning about ways to take care of your things will make them last longer, and become worth whatever money that was spent on them.

  2. Purchased a Cherry Tripper ( oiled shaft, varnished blade) end of 2010. Just re-finished it. 220'd the blade lightly, "Paw", is fine if you're careful. Spar varnished, cured for 72 hrs.,#0000 steel wool,( may 800 wet-sand next time) then hand-rubbed with Rottenstone. Tung-oil wet- sanded shaft with #400, then multiple coats hand rubbed Tung oil. When I hand someone the paddle the general reaction is an "Oh My!". They can't keep their hands off it. It seems like a lot of work, but so is working on my Solo Style in the Mattawa. The Tripper connects me to the water, which is where I prefer to be. The maintenance is just my way of saying thanks!


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